Drug overdose calls continue to rise in Madison

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MADISON (WKOW) — It’s an epidemic first responders see and experience every day. Madison police said despite all the work to address the problem — they’re getting more calls for opioid overdoses.

Drug overdoses are claiming the lives of an increasing number of people in Madison.

Overnight Wednesday, police responded to three overdose calls, two resulting in death. Thursday morning, 27 News staff heard at least 3 calls for an overdose on the police scanner, all before 2 p.m.

“We don’t know for sure those are related to heroin, but you can speculate that the prescription overdose, it’s in that same realm of opioid or painkiller type of problems or abuse,” said Bernie Albright, MARI Coordinator with the Madison Police Department.

According to Albright, heroin overdoses have increased dramatically from the same time last year.

“Through the first eight months of 2018, we have 33 fatalities that we attribute to heroin overdoses. In the first eight months of 2017, that was only 15,” he said.

Law enforcement officers often get to the scene of a potential overdose before EMS, so officers are also trained to use Narcan, the medication that can save a life.

“The use of Narcan among our entire staff is what’s keeping our fatalities as low as possible for now,” Albright said.

Madison police are not alone in their use of Narcan to combat overdoses. State trooper Jonathan Fenrick was honored Thursday by the Wisconsin State Patrol for using Narcan to save a man’s life on the Beltline.

“The quicker you can administer that Narcan, the quicker you can save lives. And ultimately, that’s the goal,” he said.

Albright said in Madison the number of drug overdoses continues to increase. But he’s optimistic officers can help reverse the trend, not with arrests, but with drug treatment programs.

“I foresee a decline for sure. The day is coming. We don’t know how far out yet because we don’t know how much worse our problem is going to get before we can start improving the numbers in the right direction.”

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, opioid deaths now outnumber car crash fatalities in Wisconsin. Overdose deaths due to fentanyl have tripled since 2015.

David Johnson

David Johnson

Reporter, WKOW

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